Posts Tagged ‘Terian’

Narek’s Festal Works, for the First Time in English

May 19th, 2016    |    No Comments »

The Festal Works of St. Gregory of Narek: Annotated Translation of the Odes, Litanies, and Encomia
By Dr. Abraham Terian
Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 2016

St. Gregory of Narek (945-1003) is one the most revered saints of the Armenian Church. He has been widely influential due to his penitential flavor of prayerful expression, particularly through his renowned and deeply introspective Book of Prayers. He has also gained the popularity of those outside the Armenian tradition. Last year, on February 21, 2015 Pope Francis declared St. Gregory a Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church, joining the company of 35 other important figures and saints such as St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Athanasius, St. Ephrem, and St. Teresa of Ávila.

Besides St. Gregory’s new status in the Catholic Church, his influence lives on in our own tradition. Thanks to Abraham Terian, Professor Emeritus of Armenian Theology and Patristics at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, the Armenian faithful now have the chance to discover–for the first time in English—our beloved mystical poet, philosopher, and theologian through the newly published Festal Works of St. Gregory: Annotated Translation of the Odes, Litanies, and Encomia.

The poetical odes and litanies vary in length ranging from 10 to 165 lines, with headings such as Ode for the Blessing of Water, Ode for the Coming of the Holy Spirit, and Litany for St. Gregory the Illuminator. The assumption is they were composed for public and liturgical use, but how the festal works of St. Gregory were employed (if they were used at all) is unknown. Similarly, we do not know the setting of the encomia: lengthy prose texts dedicated to praising subjects such as the Holy Virgin, the Holy Cross, and the Holy Apostles.

Gregory’s poetry is replete with vivid imagery and descriptors, drawn from his panoramic view of Scripture. Additionally, each of the genres included in the volume embody a sense of the worshipping community’s joyful praise, serving as a perfect supplement to Gregory’s penitential Book of Prayers.

Read, for example, these lines from his Ode for the Raising of Lazarus (p. 43):

The Gift able to transform the speechless, dead body,
The dead body wrapped in burial clothes, to be clothed and sealed with breath again by the Caller to Life.
The seal of death was broken as were the torments of hell,
The torments by the (evil) one who cannot harm the blessed assembly.
The great Hebrew assembly, a galaxy of thousands, praises in song the glory,
The glory of the One who bestows light, now and eternally.

Although the subject of the ode is the raising of Lazarus, St. Gregory is able to link that event with Christ’s entry into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday, and ground the entire theme in the divinity of Christ. This ode affirms that it is not the story of the person of Lazarus that draws the attention for Armenians, rather what it tells us about Jesus Christ, the Caller to Life, and the temporary chapter that is death.

As a mystic, St. Gregory developed an extraordinary intense sense of God’s presence. Consequently, his language and worldview were different from the experiences of most people today. His festal works bear witness to the profound message of the Gospel transmitted through the Armenian Church.

This book belongs in the library of every clergyman of the Armenian Church, and is of equal interest to specialists in the field of liturgics. But it is also accessible to anyone interested in personal edification, and in enhancing their experience and understanding of the feasts of the Armenian Church.

—Eric Vozzy works in the Eastern Diocese’s Christian Education department.

The Festal Works of St. Gregory of Narek

The Festal Works of St. Gregory of Narek